By David Henson
When the local morning news is over, Herman presses buttons at random on the two remotes till the screen goes dark. He leans back in the recliner, calls his son, puts the phone on his chest and unfolds a newspaper.
“Hi, Dad. What are you up to this morning?”
Herman scans the headlines. “I can’t get anything on this damn TV, Steven.” Herman quietly turns the page of the newspaper.
His son sighs. “You must have the remotes messed up. Again.”
“Don’t know why it takes two in this place. Didn’t at home.”
“That’s how it is there, Dad. Did you follow the instructions I wrote?”
Herman looks at the handwritten note on the side table. “Can’t find them,” he says and scans the headlines — Man Dies In ATV Rollover.
“OK, I’ll walk you through it again. Do you have the remotes?”
“Fire away.” Those ATVs are death traps, he thinks. Continued on page A14.
As Steven gives step-by-step directions, Herman turns the pages and rattles the newspaper.
“What was that?”
“… Something next door. You never know what’s going on in this place.”
“Do you have a picture now?”
“Same as before.” ATV guy was only 65. Pity.
Steven sighs. “OK, I’ll come over and take a look.”
Herman wads the handwritten note and throws it in the trash.
Steven writes the instructions again and tapes them to the table by the recliner. “OK, you won’t lose them now.”
“Never should’ve moved here.”
Steven goes to the kitchen sink, swishes water in his coffee cup, and puts it down hard in the sink.
“Could’ve done fine on my own,” Herman says.
Steven walks back toward the living room and bumps his knee on the corner of an old stereo console. “I knew there wouldn’t be room for this thing. You should’ve given it to Goodwill.”
“Your mother and I bought that for our 25th. Besides, I hear vinyl’s making a comeback.”
“You don’t have any records. You don’t even like music.”
“I like good music. Your mother and I watched Lawrence Welk every Sunday night. Course they don’t get it in this place.” An image of he and his wife bumping over a lamp while dancing flashes through his mind.
“Lawrence Welk’s been dead for years, Dad.”
“Half the Beatles, too, and you still listen to them.”
“That’s different, Dad.”
“How so?” Herman stares at his son.
Steven looks at his watch. “OK, I’ve got to go. You’ll get used to it here. Make some friends.” Steven hugs his father … “Let go now, Dad.” Steven gently pulls away.
The next morning, Herman dribbles coffee on the instructions and smears the liquid with his finger till the writing is illegible. Then he calls his son.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in Fewer Than 500 and other journals. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.